More than 25,000 Esse and other cigarettes have been seized from an eastern European store in Ross-on-Wye. Acting on intelligence, the store was visited by Herefordshire Council’s trading standards team, West Mercia Police and HM Revenue and Customs. They found that UK duty tax had not been paid on 25,740 cigarettes and 14.55 kilogrammes of hand rolling tobacco that were found in the store.
“Cheap tobacco and cigarettes can be identified by the price and that they don’t display the legal health warnings,” said Leah Wilson, a Herefordshire Council trading standards officer.
“A typical brand of 20 cigarettes will have an average tax of £5.08 put on them.
“If cigarettes are found in shops under this price, it is possible that they haven’t had the correct duty paid.
“They may even be counterfeit and are extremely dangerous – you just don’t know what is in them.
“All tobacco is harmful but easy access to cheap tobacco increases the health risks because it encourages people to keep smoking and smoke more.”
Ms Wilson added: “Smokers are not made aware of the health risks by the critical health warnings that should be placed on every packet.
“As well as major detriment to health there is also a huge detriment to local independent retailers who try to make a living honestly.
“Cheap cigarettes are deflecting customers away from genuine traders, making it difficult for a fair trading environment to thrive.”
Anyone found guilty of dealing in smuggled tobacco could face up to seven years in prison, fined or have the products confiscated.